The Crown (Wilmette, Illinois)
When you think of the British Royal Family, many things may come to mind. Privilege, tradition, and etiquette might be the first words that pop into your head. Although these things are true about the family, the media is also a huge part of the family’s daily life.
Since Princess Diana, or “Lady Diana” as she was known when she first started dating Prince Charles, graced the public eye in the early 80’s, world media outlets have not left the royals alone. When Charles and Diana’s relationship was first announced, Diana was harassed by the paparazzi going to and from her work at a daycare. The fairy-tale story of a shy young aristocrat marrying the heir to the British throne captured international attention. The wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer was watched by 750 million people from all around the world.
There was clearly intense public interest from the start of the relationship of Charles and Diana, yet this was just the beginning. Once the royal couple had their first son, William, in 1982, the public’s interest shifted to him, and soon after, to his little brother Harry, born in 1984. The family settled in Kensington Palace, located in London, which is now essentially a paparazzi hotspot.
Throughout their young lives, William and Harry attended press conference after press conference with their parents. Charles and Diana gave the public many opportunities to glimpse into the life of the young royal family through interviews for William’s first birthday which William himself also attended, Harry’s baptism which included an interview with William when he was just two years old, the press even recorded a photo shoot of the young princes at Kensington Palace.
This type of media attention followed William and Harry through out their adolescence and came to a head after Princess Diana died in 1997 after having been chased by the paparazzi and inevitably getting into a fatal car accident. William was 15 and Harry was just 12 years old. The demand from the public for pictures and stories on the young mourning Princes were at an all time high. Even friends of the princes became subject to the media’s intrusive nature. Harry once commented on his friendships saying, “Our friends go through a lot when it comes to us.”
This attention made the Princes wary of making new friends, for fear that these “friends” would leak stories to the press, which inherently made William and Harry’s friend group extremely exclusive and small.
However, the fear of leaked stories wasn’t the only thing the Princes had to be mindful of. In an interview with Matt Lauer, the Princes were asked if they had ever felt that people had befriended them because of their royal status or because of their personality. William responded saying, “It goes through your head, really, anytime you meet someone new. It’s one thing that I am really quite guarded about, and I know Harry as well. It’s just that, I don’t want to be liked by someone just because of who I am.”
It also affected the Princes’ romantic lives. While friends of the royals go through harassment by the press, Royal girlfriends have to handle even more. When William and Harry went out with their girlfriends, their every move was photographed. William and Kate, his now wife, were followed during their stay at Kate’s uncle’s villa on Ibiza, Spain. This isn’t to mention the verbal harassment Kate and Chelsy, Harry’s on-and-off ex-girlfriends, endured in the streets when they walked from their flats to their cars, through the airport, or to get coffee.
A couple of years ago, I saw a video that surfaced of Kate when she was dating William. It featured Kate and her sister Pippa leaving a club in London. While walking back home, Kate covered her face while the paparazzi yelled at her telling her to remove her hand. As shown in this video, on some occasions, the paparazzi resort to name calling or cursing. All of this torment is in the hopes of making the young women react in anger, which would create another juicy news story for the tabloids.
Needless to say, William, Harry, and those associated with them have endured a lot with the media throughout their lives, all without much interference from the palace. In fact, when William complained to his father that Kate needed security detail when he wasn’t around, Charles refused because she wasn’t a member of the family.
It’s no surprise then that William and Harry have also grown to resent the press. Today, William and Kate try to distance themselves and reduce the amount of opportunities the press have to intrude on their everyday lives. William and Kate essentially removed themselves, although not completely, from the public eye when they moved to their country estate in Norfolk (where it would be illegal for photographers to take pictures as it is a private estate/property). This resentment is clearly evident in how they are raising their two children Prince George, 2, and Princess Charlotte, 9 months.
Since George was born, William and Kate have set strict limitations for the press. When those limitations are broken, which they have been, William and Kate have threatened legal action.
In fact, just last year William and Kate issued a statement detailing the lengths that paparazzi have gone to in order to take pictures of George. After addressing the issue, they made it clear that they would not stand for this sort of exploitation of their children, and that the proper legal proceedings would take place. They also asked the public to only look at pictures that are issued by the Palace.
The protection William and Kate are giving their children is providing George and Charlotte with a relatively normal life (well, as normal as it can be as heirs to the throne). As a royal watcher, I have seen the effects of William and Kate’s mandates. There are rarely ever any paparazzi pictures of George, that is because no press outlets are buying them since they have struck deals with the family guaranteeing that they would not buy such photos. The only glimpse into George and Charlotte’s life is through the pictures that Kate takes and releases to the public every other month or so.
A prime example of the stark differences between William’s upbringing and his childrens’ is their first day of school. When William began his schooling at Ms. Mynor’s in London, the world’s press was set up across the street, fervently snapping pictures of the young Prince and his mom as they gave a quick wave and entered the school.
Ken Warfe, a security guard for the family at the time of William’s educational debut, described how Diana had warned William that he had to be nice and wave to the photographers that were gathered. William responded saying, “But Mummy, I don’t like ‘tographers.”
However, when George entered his first day of preschool on January 6th, the only items released to the public were two pictures that Kate herself had taken of the young Prince. There were no crowds, no forced compliance on George’s part, just a regular boy posing for the obligatory “first day” picture for his mother, something every new student must go through.
Although George and Charlotte are probably the cutest kids ever and I would love to see more of them, I can’t help but applaud William and Kate on their efforts to provide their children with the normal life that they have a right to. Children, no matter who they are, should never be followed by sneaky photographers wherever they go. I hope George and Charlotte are able to live out their lives with the element of privacy that their father never got—they deserve at least that much.
Photo Credit: The Crown